March 16, 2015 5:45 PM, EDT

ATA, Nearly 40 Others Pressure Congress Not to 'Devolve' Federal Transportation Funding

American Trucking Associations and nearly 40 other trade groups and businesses have sent a letter calling on Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill while opposing any move toward devolution.

That’s the notion voiced by some in Congress that federal funding for transportation programs should be eliminated and that the states should collect fuel taxes and support and maintain roads on their own.

Last year, a measure known as the Transportation Empowerment Act was introduced to devolve the federal system but defeated in the Senate.

“Some federal rules arguably increase the cost of projects and slow construction, however, these challenges do not warrant putting the safety of motorists and the health of the nation’s economy at risk by decimating the primary funding program for our nation’s most critical infrastructure,” the March 16 letter said.

Devolution of the federal-aid program would not allow states to keep the revenue that currently flows into the Highway Trust Fund from fuel taxes and excise taxes on truck and tire sales, the letter said.

“Under devolution, this money simply goes away, forcing state and local governments to replace tens of billions of dollars with tax increases or redirection of their existing resources,” the letter went on.

If for example, if such a devolution bill as last year’s TEA passed and states had to replace the lost federal revenue by increasing their own fuel taxes, on average, their gas taxes would have to increase by roughly 23 cents by 2020, and some states would have to raise their taxes by more than 30 cents, the letter said.

“Devolution represents abandonment by Congress of a most fundamental constitutional obligation to promote interstate commerce and would prove disastrous to state and local governments’ ability to maintain, improve and coordinate their transportation systems when it is widely acknowledged that current resources are already seriously insufficient,” the letter said.

Those signing the letter in addition to ATA included: the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Associated General Contractors of America, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, International Warehouse Logistics Association, National Tank Truck Carriers, National Industrial Transportation League, Truckload Carriers Association and American Moving and Storage Association.

Several carriers also signed the letter including FedEx Corp., Old Dominion Freight Line Inc., UPS Inc. and Werner Enterprises.

Volvo Group North America also was among the signers.

Asked about devolution on March 16 at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said the concept would ultimately mean “we’re going to be doing less; less of maintenance, less of new capacity building.” (See video.)

“Maybe that’s a decent strategy for a country that’s experiencing population declines or declines in the amount of commercial goods movement. But we’re expecting exponential increases in both of those areas. So it’s like, what don’t we get about this,” Foxx said.